Having gained insight into certain key characteristics of the airport installation simulator, SILA, thanks to one of its end users, Serafín Ruano of AENA, we shall now learn more about it from our colleague Ramón Izquierdo. In this interview, Ramón, a master in simulator engineering and manager of the project, tells us what makes the SILA so unique.
Ramón, tell us what the SILA is and a little about its history
AENA identified the need for a training simulator capable of responding to certain problems associated with distributed electrical installations, to the need to train the operators for critical and infrequent operations and to the difficulties posed by performing in the real-world environment.
For this development, Tecnatom possessed wide experience in the simulation of complex networks and in the training simulators business, as well as the possibility of developing an integrated made-to-measure solution using in-house technology.
This gave rise to the airport installations simulator or SILA (Simulador de InstaLaciones Aeroportuarias in the Spanish original), which is a pioneering development in its field. Its primary objective is to improve the understanding and operating skills of the operators of airport electrical installations, although it is also designed for use in simulation-assisted engineering activities, such as the validation of operating procedures, pre-operational testing, design modifications, etc. The simulator optimises the safety, availability and cost of an installation since it allows training costs to be reduced and minimises operating errors and recovery time in the event of a real electrical incident, with the corresponding impact on economy and public opinion.
The simulator allows operations and manoeuvres to be carried out from a control room, through SCADA stimulation, or from local cabinets and cabins via a graphic interface with more than 115 virtual panels.
For you, what have been the major challenges of the project? And the greatest successes
One of the greatest challenges has been the scope. More than 45 different models of 200 high/medium voltage electrical cabinets by various manufacturers (Siemens, Ormazabal, ABB, Merlin Gerin, Schneider, Mesa, etc.) have been simulated, along with 58 different models of around 360 low voltage switches, diesel generators, continuity groups, network analysers, uninterrupted power supply systems, insulation monitors, protective relays, etc. to a high degree of detail and with a highly accurate logic and dynamic performance, both in normal operation and in the event of breakdowns or incidents.
One of the most demanding challenges has been the modelling of the diesel generators, for two main reasons: the need to translate the unit PLC programmes into simulation code and the stimulation of the corresponding control panels.
Another important innovation has been the simulation of a climate control SCADA allowing for the control of the temperature and humidity of a generic control tower.
Furthermore, the SILA has undergone several scope extension and modernisation processes, as a result of which flexibility and modularity have been key issues. As the SILA is a generic simulator (it does not correspond to any facility in particular), ad hoc customisation has been performed in order to cover the entire training spectrum for the 48 installations (46 airports and 2 heliports) managed by AENA in Spain.
How satisfied do you think the client, AENA, is with the simulator?
As we have pointed out above, AENA has invested in increasing the scope of the SILA. AENA is a demanding client and knows what it wants, but we know that they are satisfied with the results and that this increase in scope points to the value of the simulator.
We are aware that the simulator is being put to good use: more than 500 operators and support personnel have been trained on it. The operators also value it highly as a great help when addressing complex situations.
In addition, as a support for the simulator we have developed a set of 10 training pills simulating 10 high voltage cabinet models.
What are these training pills? What do they consist of?
The training pills are a new teaching solution that we have developed based on the simulator in order for the trainees to be able to familiarise themselves with the interface of the cabinets and its logical and mechanical performance (locking, levers, sound effects and operation of lights) prior to their training on the simulator. This allows the advantage taken of the classroom courses and their duration to be improved.
These pills are created by reusing the graphic elements and codes developed previously for the simulator, this ensuring identical behaviour.
Practicality and short duration are essential for the training pills. They are designed for the in-depth study of specific subjects and to allow specialist knowledge to be acquired in a short space of time. The fact that they are accessible remotely and may be used by the trainee autonomously overcomes many of the possible availability-related limitations of hands-on training on the simulator. For this reason, they are a solution that has aligned very well with AENA and that will surely provide a wider spectrum of uses, like the SILA.
We would like to thank Ramón for the time he has found to talk to us and wish him continued success.
Author: Ramón Izquierdo